ESG, climate change and sustainability, social responsibility – we are reminded every day of these critical issues, whether in the for-profit, nonprofit, or government sectors. As MBA students and future business leaders, it is likely that you will face decisions around social responsibility. We help prepare you for those challenges. For more than a decade, the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation has been Chicago Booth’s social impact hub, providing cutting-edge tools and insights to support students and alumni in tackling complex social and environmental problems at any point in their careers. To learn more about how we support social entrepreneurs, impact investors, nonprofit leaders, civic changemakers, groundbreaking researchers, and volunteers, please visit: https://www.chicagobooth.edu/research/rustandy
In my role as the executive director of the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation and adjunct associate professor of strategy, I get a lot of questions about our programs and how you can pursue your social impact at Chicago Booth. Below are some answers to the most common questions I have been asked…
Why is understanding social impact so important?
Caroline Grossman: Business education has evolved over time. Every day, employees, customers, partners, students, and society as a whole, remind us of the urgency of social responsibility – whether in companies or in enhancing the outcomes of nonprofits. You’d be hard-pressed to find an investor or a business leader who isn’t thinking about ESG – from climate change and sustainability to diversity and community engagement.
What is social impact at Chicago Booth?
CG: Social impact is fully entrenched in Booth’s DNA: the Rustandy Center is the centerpiece. Our programming helps students address and grapple with the issues that are key to the way they think about becoming leaders. The Rustandy Center is a dynamic resource with programs, and events for Booth students, alumni, faculty, business and nonprofit leaders, impact investors, and social entrepreneurs – anyone committed to making our world more equitable and sustainable. Students have access to people who share a commitment to social impact, including leaders in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.
What is the student experience?
CG: Booth’s social impact courses complement the discipline-based curriculum in finance, economics, and operations with real-world experience, preparing students to consider the place of business in society and develop effective and sustainable solutions to complex problems. One of my colleagues, for example, is teaching a popular course, Perspectives on Capitalism, which critically examines the relationship between markets, the state, the individual, and values.
We support social entrepreneurship, innovation, and impact investing as a leading university-based launchpad and knowledge center for social entrepreneurs, their ventures, and the people who fund them. The John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) has helped to jump-start more than 150 startups that have collectively raised more than $165 million. Notable Edwardson SNVC alumni include solar-powered light company LuminAID, which was acquired by Adventure Ready Brands, online voter guide BallotReady, autism therapy provider AIM Clinics (now Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers), Africa-based e-commerce platform Wasoko, Chicago-based nonprofit Debate it Forward, together.science, and the 2023 winner, Period.
We are home to one of the largest student-managed impact investing funds, the Steven Tarrson Impact Investment Fund, allowing Booth MBA students to gain hands-on experience in every stage of impact investing, from scouting, to doing due diligence, to making investment decisions, and forging connections with early-stage impact investors.
Our faculty address some of the most pressing social issues of our time with actionable research. Faculty and alumni are exploring the delivery of life-saving malaria prevention equipment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, how food banks can more efficiently distribute food, how accurately US companies measure their corporate social responsibility, and much more.
Students have a direct role in strengthening nonprofit strategy and governance, helping drive social and environmental change. Booth students are matched with local nonprofit organizations, bringing valuable pro bono business skills to nonprofits, while gaining experience in nonprofit management and governance. For professionals in nonprofit organizations or the government, who plan to remain in the sector, the Chicago Booth Civic Scholars Program offers substantial scholarships, and specialized programming in partnership with the Rustandy Center.
Why is understanding social impact valuable to students who do not go into social impact careers?
CG: Wherever our students end up professionally, we hope they will consider their role and impact on society. The lines between sectors are increasingly fluid, and the public, nonprofit, and private sectors must work together to address today’s pressing challenges. Sustainability is a prime example. No one sector will solve climate change alone and considering the complexity of the issue is truly really critical. As the destination for students interested in social impact, we help channel their skills into impact as they choose.
You can be part of something big. The Rustandy Center advances social innovation and equips bold thinkers and doers with the knowledge and practical tools necessary to create positive impact. If you have questions or want to learn more, sign up to hear from us.